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Federal prosecutors are asking a U.S. District Court judge to sentence former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. to nearly four years in prison for stealing government funds. Thomas will stand before a federal judge Thursday to find out how long he will spend in prison for embezzling more than $350,000 in public funds and filing false tax returns.
Thomas pleaded guilty earlier this year after settling a civil lawsuit with the city and resigning from his seat on the council. Sentencing guidelines recommend a 41- to 51-month sentence for Thomas and prosecutors and defense attorneys filed their recommendations with the court late Friday.
U.S. Attorney Ron Machen is seeking a 46-month sentence for Thomas. Machen writes that Thomas "secretly stole money ear-marked for youth enrichment programs ... while publicly portraying himself as a champion of under-privileged children," according to court documents.
Some of the money Thomas stole — which was supposed to go youth sports programs — instead went to to pay for lavish trips and a luxury SUV.
Defense attorneys for the former council member are asking for a lighter sentence: 18 months. They argue in their court filing that Thomas has a long record of community service and has accepted responsibilty for his actions.
And Thomas, in his first public comments since the day he pleaded guilty, tells the judge in his letter that he is "truly sorry" and says he needs to "spend time making amends" and "seeking forgiveness."
"Words," Thomas writes, "will not be sufficient … only actions."
And as Thomas awaits sentencing, new details about his embezzlement scheme at the city’s Children & Youth Investment Trust (CYTIC) are raising concerns that Thomas had help skimming money from the public-private non-profit.
Council member Jim Graham late last week released the findings of his months-long inquiry into the Trust. The report concludes that there was lax oversight at the organization and that Thomas couldn't have pulled off the scheme without help from Trust staff and perhaps others in the city government.
Graham is now launching a formal council investigation with subpoena power to find out more information and to help restore confidence in the organization.